The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.
While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.
What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.
So, to begin:
- Eddie Griffin – Undeniable (2019)
I think to get this one started, I have to give some solid background information. There was a point in my life where I really enjoyed stand-up comedy and I’m the type of guy that will laugh so hard at something that other people laugh at me, laughing. I’m that douche in the movies that causes you to miss two full scenes because I’m snorting. At one point I loved stand-up comedy as well, both on disc and in person but over the years my interest has died off. I have went to see many a celebrity comic in person and have not laughed at all, even though I went in as a fan. So I really wanted to do this one to go back and see if some of the discs I used to listen to are still funny or if some of the comedians I love(d) are still in my wheelhouse.
But this all started with a buddy telling me that the last Eddie Griffin album started off with a long rant about Donald Trump or as Griffin calls him, the “Orange Avenger.” And boy, does he rail on Trump on everything from his politics, to the wall, to his racism and it’s all hilarious, of course for someone that believes he’s on point. I’m sure this album is horrifying to Republicans. And I actually started this Rabbit Hole a few days before George Floyd’s death but it really hits home now as most of the disc talks about racism and the differences in the races. And Griffin really likes the N-word. I didn’t count but it’s like every other line. The album is pretty damn funny and really relevant right now (I’m writing this on June 4th, a little over a week since the protests in America started), and probably something that everyone should take a listen to and pay some attention.
- Katt Williams – Pimpadelic (2012)
I wasn’t even sure I could do this Rabbit Hole as I had no idea what the Tidal “similar artists” algorithm would present me for comedians as I never see stand-up albums come in any feed I have. And it only gave me one option after Eddie Griffin. Katt Williams. I went back to 2012 and chose his album Pimpadelic.
So as far as the format of the disc goes, I hate it. Williams does a bit and follows it up with a track that comes across like a confessional, where he’s all serious talking about life and how he comes up with the material and shit like that. That said, the comedy bits themselves are funny as hell.
However, what I love about this disc is one of the key things that makes me like a comedian. I don’t know if his material was scripted beforehand or not but it’s certainly tailored to the area he was performing in. I don’t know if this was all recorded from the same show or not since those “confessional” interludes are in there but the second track is all about the city he was in, “Washington, DC” – the people, the streets, the ghetto etc… But the tracks I laughed the hardest at were “Bills and Weed” where he bases the story around the “chemical in weed called ‘fuck it'” – so when you worry about your bills and then take a puff, you just say “fuck it,” and “Side Effects,” where he talks about the side effects of pills, specifically a “fat blocker” that causes gas with an oily discharge. And I love this as it’s so relevant. I mention it to my wife all the time as a new pill comes on screen – “side effects include diarrhea and constipation.” How the fuck can you be clogged up and have the runs at the same time? And then “Spinner Hubcaps” which has a secondary passage about hanging out with DMX and him sounding the same ordering dinner as he does on this songs.
Overall, despite the weird format of the disc, Katt Williams is a funny motherfucker and this disc is still fire, eight years after the release.
- Chris Rock – Never Scared (2005)
Let’s face it, Chris Rock’s a funny man and it still comes through well on this disc from 2005, featuring a performance in Washington, DC in 2004. This has a similar format to the Katt Williams disc – a track of standup, followed by a track that isn’t stand up. But while Katt got all serious on those tracks, Never Scared has actual comedic skits and those are truly funny. There’s a series of “Tip Your Hat to Whitey” skits that show how whites get all the money and a series of “Real People of Ignorance” skits parodying those old “Real Men of Genius” radio spots. Pay attention to the “Tattoo” version of that skit for a great laugh. But the comedy is still on point too. Talking about how gross it is to be the guy at the strip club that eats a meal, “tities and tater tots don’t mix,” to how hard it is to defend rap back then – having an intellectual debate about the merits of “Move Bitch” or having hoes in different area codes. A funny disc, though a little long for a CD but the stage show translates well.
- Denis Leary – No Cure For Cancer (1993)
I wasn’t about to force it but I was hoping this would be offered up as listening to this was why I wanted to do this rabbit hole in the first place, so when it finally came up in the algorithm, I took it. And the reason I wanted to listen to see if it still held up is because this was the very first comedy album I owned and listened to repeatedly. This came out in 1993 back when I trying to actively listen to everything that came out but needed to actually purchase these fucking round plastic discs to do so. Hate streaming services all you want but my lord, the amount of albums that I listen to these days is probably 100x what I listened to back then. Anyway…
I don’t find this one as funny as I used to. I remember singing the opening song, “Asshole” all the time and when I listened again, I remembered all of what was coming but it just wasn’t that funny any longer. Although a lot of the material is about drugs, more than the other three discs, this is really timely comedy that came across well in 1993 but has lost a little luster in 2020. “Life sucks, get a fucking helmet” is always going to apply but comedy about what he did in the 70s is now 40+ years old. I’m assuming that there’s a lot of discs like this from back-in-the-day as well and the only ones that are going to hold up are ones with timeless topics.
- Sam Kinison – Louder Than Hell (1986)
I know Kinison was a loved comedian whose life ended too soon, but his act doesn’t do anything for me. There’s comedy in there but his “thing” was of course just random screaming, whether it be certain phrases or just making noises now and again. And this disc, was his first record, back in 1986 – which starts off with a full bit on why it sucks to be gay. Comedians aren’t made to be PC and I don’t know if this was fine back in ’86 but in 2020 this doesn’t fly. Unlike the rest of the albums I’ve listened to here, this seems like a very visual performance as well. I’m sure watching him scream is better in person and his diagrams of how to lick pussy on “Alphabet” probably are much funnier watching him do them rather just picturing it. Either Kinison just isn’t for me or this disc hasn’t held up well at all.
- Andrew Dice Clay – Dice (1989)
The totally weird fucking thing about this disc in 1989 was that it was produced by Rick Rubin. Beastie Boys to Andrew Dice Clay.
Obviously, you know that Andrew Dice Clay made a name off his XXX material, including his nursery rhymes, but just like Kinison, he starts off the disc ragging on homosexuals but in Dice’s case, he uses slurs all over the track “A Day at the Beach” and then follows it up with derogatory comments about the Japanese too and well, really…no one is spared. And weirdly enough, we made him a star based off of this, at least for a while. Yeah, I got a few laughs at his bit about designer pussy on “The Golden Age of Television,” but overall, it’s really hard to laugh now at a racist, homophobic, asshole because you simply have to assume he really thinks this – it’s not just comedy. It would be bad enough if it was just for laughs but the delivery says this guy believed himself and well, it’s just ain’t cool.
- George Carlin – Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics (1990)
Dice almost derailed me. I’m no prude and I don’t care if you curse up a storm but Dice was filthy, just because. George Carlin also has a filthy mouth but you know what? There’s meaning behind those words. Carlin’s filth is to punctuate a joke or to hammer home a point, not just because he can say the word. To me, that’s what makes him one of the greatest and even here, with an album from 1990, a little after his heyday, this material is still very funny and very relevant. There’s a 20 minute section in the middle of this disc starting with “Feminist Blowjob” which is about making everything gender neutral (“David Letterperson”) to “Good Ideas” (“A diet salad dressing called 500 Islands”) and the trio of “Things You Never See/Hear/Don’t Wanna Hear” that’s absolutely hilarious. Follow that up with the scenarios where you really don’t want to have to take your underwear out of your ass crack and there’s at least 20 straight minutes of laughter and plenty of more in this hour long disc. And it’s typical Carlin of course, political and topical, harping on the bad stuff in life but turning it all into a joke. So even on a disc that wasn’t his most popular, you can easily tell why George Carlin was a legend.
- Sinbad – Brain Damaged (1990)
I never really listened to Sinbad’s comedy routines, though I watched The Sinbad Show and enjoyed it. However, this disc does nothing for me. I was scared that it was songs rather than stand-up at first as the disc starts with “Brain Damaged,” an absolutely 100% terrible rap tune. Sinbad doesn’t have a great singing voice and it’s not Biz Markie bad either, just bad bad. And the album just seems like it’s filled with pretty generic material. Material about grandmothers and weaves and the problems with leaving a woman – feels a bit been-there-done-that – at least listening now in 2020. And there’s a bunch of skits in between the stand-up that just aren’t funny in the least bit. There’s one called “Mike Tyson as A Substitute Teacher” that’s utterly painful to listen to and his impersonation of Tyson is terrible. I know a lot of people loved him in the 90s – any maybe because he was a part of the classic comedy, A Different World as well as for some of his movies. But at least this disc in particular is pretty dull. The only fun part for me is when the crowd started gasping at his conversation about weaves and you can hear some dude in the background going “woah” and “no, no” as if he’s fucking scared at how pissed off Sinbad is making all the ladies in the audience.
And with that, I’ve hit a dead end. The only recommendation of similar artists to Sinbad is back to George Carlin, so that ends the comedic rabbit hole.